Thursday, October 25, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews || Updated: 3 p.m.
Featured image: Roberto Sepúlveda, community inclusionist. | Roberto Sepúlveda
Roberto Sepúlveda, a Melrose Park native, works in corporate diversity and inclusion. On Oct. 11, he spoke to the Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club about what his job — and his life’s mission as what he calls a community inclusionist — entails.
I do diversity inclusion training in places like Kentucky and Tennessee and Texas. One of the places I went to, I had a guy come up to me in the beginning of the training and say, ‘These are my values, you’re not going to change them.’
This was a [meat processing] facility for one of the corporations I used to work with, so somebody coming in with overalls and maybe tainted with blood … it was a little intimidating.
But we’re not looking to change your values, we’re looking for you to be mindful and be inclusive of other people’s values. Being able to understand who we are increases engagement and therefore increases productivity. Improved communication can also help with innovation and any other efficiencies at the workplace, so what we do is not just feel-good, it’s also good for business.
If you don’t talk to each other, then you’re not being the best person you can at work. So, this individual participated [in the diversity training] with some other people. At the beginning of the training there was friction.
Roberto Sepúlveda speaking during a Maywood-Proviso Rotary Club meeting earlier this month. | VFP
I asked them to have conversations about what they enjoy doing and at the end of the day, a few of these individuals started talking about fishing. They found out they would go fishing around the same day and time for years together — they were only about a half-mile from each other.
And by speaking to each other, they decided that, ‘Hey, I’m going to go fishing and I’ll see you there.’ They came back to the facility and three months later, the facility improved safety and the workers found new friends. Fishing brought them together.
They thought they had different values, because they’d come from different races, but bringing people together makes people learn what they have in common.
Being able to connect individuals and create a workplace that is going to be better for my daughter right now is important. I get paid to do this, but what I’m really doing is creating an inclusive workplace where women will have a seat at the table and will be on corporate boards; where people considered minorities right now in the United States will have a seat at the table.
By doing this work, more people have skin in the game and if more people have skin in the game, we’ll be able to hold each other accountable and not only make our workplaces better, but also our communities better. VFP
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